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How tinderbox is relevant to users

When I write about the tinderbox, I don’t usually have much feedback; I learnt that this is often because users can’t really be expected to understand the technical details that goes around it, but I suspect it also involves the fact that quite a few people don’t understand how my tinderbox work is relevant to the average user. So just to refresh that idea I’ll try to write it explicitly.

Indeed, there are a number of reasons why the tinderbox is relevant; beside the general QA improvements, for instance, there are a few direct improvements for users:

  • removal of old packages: by removing the old crappy packages that don’t build, don’t install, don’t work and stuff like that, it reduces the amount of packages in the tree; we all know that the size of the tree does matter on users, there has been an uncountable number of proposals of splitting it up in overlays and stuff; I don’t like those proposals and I really think we should start considering slimming down the tree first which is why I’m masking packages all over the tree;
  • bugs are already filed: this both is helpful for users to find their problems, and hopefully to bug wranglers that won’t have to assign all the bugs; indeed it starts to take quite a while for bugs to be wrangled properly, and hopefully by having the bugs filed before users decide to file them, the assignment will be done already (since I usually do assign them properly);
  • new packages won’t make your system bail out: there are a number of packages that break ABI and API all the time; testing all the reverse dependencies might take time for most developers, the tinderbox usually can do that quite fast; it would work better if the breaking packages were masked and submitted for review, but even this way it works nicely;
  • minor issues that wouldn’t be noticed on users get fixed: when packages have minor issues like missing die statements, conditional text relocations and other stuff like that, they don’t tend to get reported because most users rightly don’t care once the package merged fine; by checking the logs I can find this stuff much more easily, and fix or report it.

Now, I just hope my video card is not bringing down my tinderbox efforts.

Comments 14
  1. The tinderbox is incredibly important.I hope that users can not only appreciate how important it is for Gentoo, but I also hope that developers and users can appreciate how important it is for all distros. Gentoo runs so close to upstream that any issues your tinderbox find will usually exist in all distros, so you’re improving the quality of Free Software everywhere. Not to build your ego too much… but you may want to mention something along those lines some day.

  2. Thanks for all of your hard work. Users may not say it, but we really do appreciate your efforts, especially for a free distro.

  3. Yep, we (they) do.I follow you tinderbox posts since the beginning. And i like the idea and of course that it works;)

  4. Thanks for your work. I hope we can use it soon.Will the tinderbox file bugs automatically ?

  5. I’m interested in your tinderbox, too. Even If I never commented on your blog entries.

  6. Hi Diego,I’m closely following your package removal posts on gentoo-dev, and I know they are direct result of tinderbox runs. I appreciate all your efforts to make gentoo a “better” distro.Keep up the good work ! :)- Gokdeniz

  7. *sigh* I am currently installing a gentoo box. I enabled the USE flags for ‘debug’ and ‘test’ also adding test to features. pulled in tcl and am attempting to build a box to learn some ruby on that will double as a desktop for my child. berkdb failed tests as did glibc, mysql and ccacheI -am- running with -mtune=k8 would this be an issue with gcc-4.3.x?I shall retry these with -march=i686..just a heads up to anyone

  8. The idea of splitting up the whole portage tree in another set of overlays seems like it would be the greatest mess of all.I do say that because I came across the overlay problem a few times. So you want something which is in overlay A and little of it is in B and have to deal with B getting prioritized.I ended up copying all the relevent ones to my own overlay. Someone on planet.larrythecow wrote that he was symlinking to and only sourcing his personal overlay.Don’t get this wrong I really love the ‘mighty power’ of the overlays, but sometimes it’s a little mess and a bit of too time consuming. On the other hand I couldn’t live without overlays anymore :)Diego, when you’re talking about slimming down the tree, how many ebuilds / packages would have to be ‘gone’ too until you would feel satisfied?I’m just curious. You’re doing an amazing job!

  9. I’ll try to answer to the question briefly here, I might pick them up for a more throughout post another day:@gv05757: no unfortunately for now it does not file anything automatically; Mark (Halcy0n) is working on the log analysis tool that I gave up on, and with that we can get near something that can then be tweaked for auto-filing, but that’s a much longer term target.@user99: you really don’t want to enable tests globally on a real system, it’s quite a bit of a mess, and it’ll take a lot of effort for it to become usable, and even then it’ll take way too much time (even on an optocore system, berkdb tests took 13 hours… and it failed because of a known bug).@franky I agree with you about the overlays; I try not to abuse them with everything and the kitchen sink, but some people expect them to solve all the problems in the world… but Gentoo will switch to a broken up tree over either my dead body or my resignation… as for slimming down, I don’t see it as a target, but rather a process: if a package does not build it should be fixed or removed… I’ll be happy the day all the tree builds without glitches.

  10. Hi,I’m rather a user than a developer (with respect to gentoo), and I am aware that you put a lot of work into the tinderbox. But to be honest, I don’t know what the tinderbox is at all. You write a lot about your work and many details, but I didn’t get the overall image yet. Could you please point me to an article where you describe what the tinderbox actually is?Maybe then I’ll be able to understand how it is important to the average user :)-Rara

  11. I have to say this Diego….Your blog sucks!!(eleven)(blog theme that is – quite hard to read)

  12. Flameeyes, do you ever plan on releasing whatever scripts and/or black majick you use for the tinderbox? I’m sure there are other users and probably devs who would like to know how your tinderbox works.

  13. I just wanted to say I appreciate your effort Diego :)I often learn interesting things from reading your blog.

  14. Diego, you mention pruning the tree. And also binaries in this vein. Some binaries are a necessary evil. The nvidia drivers are just one example.Also ‘trimming the tree’ [you like that? ;-)] means we need to parse use.desc and remove some stale flags. There are some that are there for orsa…which has long been removed from the tree.

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